How to fix your job so that you love it, in three steps

This essay is part of a column called The Wisdom Project, to which you can subscribe here.

(CNN)Our work-life balance has, to borrow a term we all learned in the 2020 Olympics, been feeling "the twisties" during the pandemic. So many of us had to adapt to working from home, adjustments and accommodations, mass layoffs, career pivots and rehiring.

Even if you managed to keep your job, it likely changed in some significant way. And change doesn't always mean for the better.
Even before Covid-19, more than half of Americans found their job unsatisfactory, according to an annual survey by the Conference Board research group. The nation had been hovering around the halfway mark of job dissatisfaction since at least 2000.
    That statistic means half the people you work with every day are living a work life that Henry David Thoreau would have described as one of "quiet desperation."

      Job-life happiness

      Many of us also unhelpfully conflate our self-worth with our career. Our job unhappiness becomes life unhappiness, which raises the stakes.
      Wouldn't it be nice to stop being envious of those who love their jobs and become one of those people?
        There is a lot of career advice out there about how to ask for a raise, get a promotion, deal with a difficult boss, manage others and so on. But very little addresses the fundamental issue of your day-to-day happiness at work.
        The factors that can tip the scales one way or the other for job happiness can boil down to our innate desire for three things: control over our lives, positive daily connections, and joy and meaning in how we spend our waking time (half of which is at work, for most people).
        The way to integrate our need for control, connection and meaning -- while on the clock -- is by "job crafting." That's the term used by Yale University psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski and University of Michigan professor of business administration and psychology Jane E. Dutton. It's about "taking control of, or reframing, some of these factors," they wrote in a study on the topic.

        The problem is not the job

        People who don't like their jobs -- i.e., the majority of us -- may suffer and grumble day to day. They may even be chronically stressed, a state that has serious medical consequences, from hypertension and cardiovascular disease to decreased mental health, according to a meta-analysis of studies by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School.
        There are also factors connected to job happiness that we have little control over, such as your boss. About half of people who quit their job did so "to get away from their manager," according to a recent Gallup poll. Salaries are important as well.
        But we don't usually decide who our boss is, and they can suddenly change (for good or bad). As for money, studies have shown it has only a short-term effect on happiness.